First, you should not believe travel agent reports as to whether Bali is safe or not. Many of these travel agents are based in Indonesia, are reliant on the Balinese tourist industry for 100% of their income, and have a government that say Bali is safe (they also said there was no terrorist threat prior to the bombings, despite warnings from foreign intelligence services). You should read and follow the travel advisories issued by your respective governments regarding Bali.
Second, we are an English company, bound by English Law. Our government (at the time of writing) warns of the pronounced terrorism threat throughout Indonesia. Being bound by English law, if we gave poor advice (such as "Do not worry, Bali is safe!"), we could be held liable for this. Also, we are compelled to advise users of this site. One of our directors, while on holiday in Bali directly after the bombing, saw absolutely no evidence of security at the ferry ports, and none for internal / domestic flights. In addition, there have been an alarming number of vehicle robbery attack reports and kidnappings (the later being attributed to gangs involved in gambling). Although it hurts our business and those of our many friends in Bali, we must therefore agree, for the most part, with our government.
Despite this, Bali remains a paradise, and in our honest opinion a worthy holiday / vacation destination. However, we would advise great caution in certain respects.
We believe hotels themselves are safe, given internal security. Although, there is likely a more substantial risk in a large, western associated / name hotel. Despite there being no evidence that we know of to suggest International airliner hijacking is any more likely in Bali (given the security most airlines seem to be applying to their aircraft on the ground in Bali). There may be a valid concern regarding internal flights, as security seems to be much more lax, even nonexistent. Further, although there is no evidence that we are aware of regarding suspected Indonesian terrorists having had flight training. The possibility does exist that famous / western named hotels near the airport could be at greater risk generally.
Given the known target preferences of terrorists, hotels / restaurants / bars outside of the main the tourist areas (Kuta, Sanur, Nusa Dua, Legian, Ubud, Lovina) are likely to be much less of a risk then those in these areas. We believe it makes sense to AVOID restaurants, shops and bars in mass tourism related areas during busy and evening periods. We would also recommend contacting your intended airline, to ask them what extra security they are providing for your flights. Our director was very happy with Singapore Airlines, who he observed had ground staff watching the baggage system and passengers closely.
Outside the dense tourism areas, we believe the risk of terrorist attack is very remote; probably less then in the metropolitan areas of countries where the terrorists would like to strike (USA, UK, Australia, etc.). This is also based on the fact that terrorist groups have shown singular interest in large scale targets, not rural ones.
We also believe that the terrorist group that allegedly committed the Bali bombing (Jemaah Islamia) are misguided, less competent and lack the same motivations as al-Qaeda proper. We say this because one of the alleged bombers initially expressed surprise and even some remorse at the numbers of Australian casualties, and the low number of US victims. This not only shows they thought their target was frequented predominantly by Americans, but more importantly that their intelligence can hardly be called that. And this indicates a group generally less able to function effectively as well trained / highly motivated terrorists.
There are also many people who question the true motivation of the alleged terrorists. Many people believe a good part of the motivation of the act was jealousy of the Balinese. One of the alleged bombers used, in fact, to be a tour guide in Bali. And Bali have a history of ill feeling from certain Javanese and their envy of the Balinese tourist trade.
In addition to this, it is important to remember that the Indonesian Government were stating that there were absolutely no terrorists in Indonesia right up to the bombing. Many people believe this made the terrorists feel that such an attack was acceptable, even condoned by the government. And after the attack, both the new anti-terrorist legislation rushed through parliament, and the resultant economic downturn that ensued throughout Indonesia as a direct result of the attack, have removed a critically large part of the motivation for further terrorist events. It is similar to the effects a few years ago on neighboring Lombok, when some locals burned down buildings during a riot. As a result, many tourists stayed away. The island suffered, and realized it / it's people had to improve. Unfortunately for Bali, it's woes come from the actions of people from another island. And we should all remember this.
We believe that areas of Bali, particularly during certain (busy) times. And, perhaps, high profile / larger hotels may not be as safe as they should be. Or at least, not as safe as other holiday / vacation destinations worldwide. But, we also believe, that if you chose your airline and hotel carefully, and if you avoid tourist areas when they are busy. You will be as safe in Bali as you are at home (perhaps safer). This does not mean your holiday / vacation should be less enjoyable, far from it. In fact, visiting shops early in the morning will almost guarantee greater choice and lower prices. As vendors are prepared to discount more first thing, to get that all important first sale (which they believe will bring them luck for the rest of the day). Also, temperatures are much lower in the morning, so the experience should be more enjoyable anyway.
With regard to car robbings and kidnappings, the car robberies reportedly happen at dusk / night when people are driving between the north and south (we were advised around Mengwi). And also appear to be targetted against wealthier residents of the island, rather then tourists. But it would be wise not to test this theory and avoid driving other then during the day. The kidnappings of foreigners appear to be the work of illegal gambling gangs against visitors who make the mistake of making wagers. Therefore, do not gamble in Bali
Regarding terrorism, we also believe the Balinese themselves are now much more vigilant in respect of security within their own villages / communities. But this is certainly no substitute for proper anti- terrorism measures.
Finally, please remember, that visiting Bali supports those that lost the most. The Balinese themselves, who are now suffering quite terribly for someone else's actions.
If you would like to ask other people's views of safety and other matters related to Bali, we recommend you visit the Bali & Lombok Travel Forum.
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